Is life different from the non-living? If so, how? And how, in that case, does biology as the study of living things differ from other sciences? These questions are traced through an exploration of episodes in the history of biology and philosophy. The book begins with Aristotle, then moves on to Descartes, comparing his position with that of Harvey. In the eighteenth century the authors consider Buffon and Kant. In the nineteenth century the authors examine the Cuvier-Geoffroy debate, pre-Darwinian geology (...) and natural theology, Darwin and the transition from Darwin to the revival of Mendelism. Two chapters deal with the evolutionary synthesis and such questions as the species problem, the reducibility or otherwise of biology to physics and chemistry, and the problem of biological explanation in terms of function and teleology. The final chapters reflect on the implications of the philosophy of biology for philosophy of science in general. (shrink)
The contrast between the personal and the subjective is a central aspect of Polanyi's argument in Personal Knowledge; this essay examines the way this distinction is developed and offers possible reasons Polanyi has been misunderstood on this point. It also discusses some ambiguities in Polanyi's use of "subjective" and "subjectivity" and comments on the general neglect of Polanyi's work by philosophers.
Because of the difficulty posed by the contrast between the search for truth and truth itself, Michael Polanyi believes that we must alter the foundation of epistemology to include as essential to the very nature of mind, the kind of groping that constitutes the recognition of a problem. This collection of essays, assembled by Marjorie Grene, exemplifies the development of Polanyi's theory of knowledge which was first presented in _Science, Faith, and Society_ and later systematized in _Personal Knowledge_. Polanyi believes (...) that the dilemma of the modern mind arises from the peculiar relation between the positivist claim for total objectivity in scientific knowledge and the unprecedented moral dynamism characterizing the social and political aspirations of the last century. The first part of _Knowing and Being_ deals with this theme. Part two develops Polanyi's idea that centralization is incompatible with the life of science as well as his views on the role of tradition and authority in science. The essays on tacit knowing in Part Three proceed directly from his preoccupation with the nature of scientific discovery and reveal a pervasive substructure of all intelligent behavior. Polanyi believes that all knowing involves movement from internal clues to external evidence. Therefore, to explain the process of knowing, we must develop a theory of the nature of living things in general, including an account of that aspect of living things we call "mind." Part Four elaborates upon this theme. (shrink)
It would seem that there are enormous differences between strict hylomorphism and Cartesianism on form and matter: for a strict hylomorphist, matter and form cannot be separated, but for a Cartesian, matter and form are really distinct ; for a strict hylomorphist, form is the principle of being and matter the principle of individuation, but for a Cartesian, the mind-a form-is the principle of individuation for persons, if anything is. However, these breaks are not as severe as might have been (...) thought, if seventeenth century scholastics are taken into account. For a variety of reasons, the late Aristotelians broke with Aristotle and accepted the reality of matter without form, form without matter, and form as the principle of individuation. In addition, the intellectual landscape of seventeenth century philosophy was not limited to the properly scholastic ; there were anti-Aristotelian options available before Descartes. Given that the gulf between the schoolmen and novatores like Descartes was not so great, the way was open for certain compromises. These were sought in a variety of scholastic restatements of Cartesianism from more or less Cartesian positions. Thus, it can be said that some varieties of Aristotelianism in the seventeenth century prepared the ground for the acceptance of Cartesianism and the eventual attempts at their reunification. (shrink)
In general, philosophy does not progress as the sciences do. Philosophers seem largely to follow fashions. Of course there are fashions in the sciences, too, but in philosophy they appear to predominate. So, when I look back at the two-thirds or more of the century that I remember, I see a succession of such fashions replacing one another. At the same time, I see something resembling progress in a couple of fields that I was involved in. Finally, I find us, (...) at the close of the twentieth century, still burdened with one long-dominant attitude that many thinkers, in different ways, have tried (in vain) to overcome—an attitude reflected recently, in fact, in a particularly vocal fashion. Let me follow briefly each of these three lines of reflection. (shrink)